Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Vegetable fritters - speedy teatime idea for babies and toddlers

No. My son did not appreciate the parsley garnish!

Some days it feels as though all I do is prepare meals! My 15-month old son is on a slightly different mealtime schedule to us due to fitting in naps and his bedtime which often occurs before my husband gets in from work (we relish a 'grown-up' meal together in the evenings!). Much as I love to cook, preparing two different lunches and two different evening meals can leave little time for getting out and about. Where possible, I try to cook meals that are suitable for us all and just heat up a portion for my son the next day. I also like to keep the freezer full of speedy meals and snacks that are perfect for when time is short.

These very tasty fritters freeze really well and can be cooked directly from frozen in just ten minutes. They also take merely five minutes to make and are ideal for those days when you I open the fridge and realise all you I have is an egg and a couple of bendy carrots! They are a great way to disguise any vegetables that little ones usually reject and are easy for little hands to eat - they would make a great dish for younger babies following the baby led weaning approach. For my son, these are a great tea-time meal in themselves. He loves them and we have tried various vegetable combinations - sweetcorn and courgette being his favourite. The fritters also make a good light lunch or brunch for adults served with a poached egg and/or a slice of bacon.

Vegetable Fritters
Inspired by this recipe from Annabel Karmel

Makes approx. 8-10 small fritters

30g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 large egg
1-2 tbsp milk
170g mixed vegetables* (sweetcorn, peas, courgette, carrot, spring onion)
Olive oil for frying
Pinch of salt (optional and for 12 months+ only)

*Vegetables such as carrot or courgette should be grated and squeezed in a tea-towel to get rid of excess liquid. Sweetcorn is great in these, either alone or mixed with grated courgette.

1. Place the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and combine. Make a slight well and crack the egg into the well. Mix together with a touch of milk until you have a thick but smooth batter. 

2. Stir in the vegetables.

3. Heat oil in a frying pan. Take heaped teaspoons of the batter and drop into the pan, pushing down with back of the spoon to create a rough circular shape. Cook for 1-2 minutes until golden and then flip over and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side. Once golden and slightly crisp on the outside, they are ready. Cook in batches.

4. To freeze, simple wrap the cooled fritters in foil in portion sizes (my son will eat around 4 of these but he is very greedy!). When ready to eat, place on a baking tray in oven at 180C for 8-10 minutes.

If anyone reading this can help, I would be enormously helpful. The background template for my blog does not appear correctly on mobile devices such as iPads. This makes my blog look rather ugly unless viewed on a desktop/laptop. I have no idea how to fix this as I am very un-techy. Can anyone shed any light?! Please?! I would be hugely grateful for any advice.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Torta alla Gianduia - Clandestine Cake Club

Whilst flicking through this month's edition of BBC Good Food magazine, I stumbled upon an article about the Clandestine Cake Club. I hadn't heard of this club before but loved the concept - in towns and cities around the country (and world) groups of keen bakers meet on a monthly basis to share cake. What's not to like about that?

Each month, there is a theme and each member must bake a cake to take along to the meeting. The only 'clandestine' part of the whole thing is the venue of the meeting. This is revealed only to those attending a few days before the event. Cakes must be whole and sliceable - cupcakes, muffins, brownies and the like are strictly forbidden as they are considered at odds with the whole notion of sharing cakes together. Best of all, you get to take home a selection of the leftover cakes to graze on over the next few days!

Freshly ground hazelnuts for a gluten-free cake

This struck me as great fun and a good challenge for me too but I was convinced that I would be unlikely to find a local group as I live quite a way from any major towns or cities. Imagine my delight when I discovered a group in my local market town. This month's theme was 'Euro Delights' so I took to the sofa with a cup of tea and a tower of cook book to find inspiration for a cake from one of our European neighbours.
A whole (large) jar of Nutella - what's not to love? (Other than the calories!)
I decided to head to Italy for my cake and, inspired by watching The Hairy Bikers creating a divine-looking chocolate and hazelnut celebration cake, decided to try something similar. This Piedmont speciality makes use of Gianduia; the utterly unpronouceable yet delicious chocolate and hazelnut spread that is most commonly consumed by way of a jar of Nutella. The aforementioned bikers spread a rather more sophisticated version of this over the top of their cake but Goddess of cakes herself (Nigella) actually incorporated an ENTIRE jar of Nutella into the cake itself before topping with a gleaming chocolate ganache. It was this version that really seduced me!

Pre-icing - don't worry about dips and hollows -
it will sink a bit on cooling and all can be hidden by the ganache!

I made the cake with freshly ground hazelnuts and finished by piping the word 'Gianduia' on the top in the way you might do with a Sachertorte. Nigella prefers to top hers with toasted hazelnuts but I'm strangely not particularly keen on whole nuts so just placed a ring of these around the edge. I was pleased with the result and particularly with my chocolate ganache - something which has caused me trouble in the past! It is very rich and would be good as dessert with strong coffee and a drizzle of cream. My husband exclaimed surprise that it wasn't particularly sweet - the recipe doesn't have any additional sugar other than that in the Nutella. 

The recipe for this fabulous bake is on Nigella's website as well as in 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' so you can hop right over here to see it and I won't reproduce it. However, here is a quick guide for piping the lettering...

Torta alla Gianduia from Nigella's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'

(Click the title for the original recipe)

To decorate with piped lettering, you will need:

50-100g dark chocolate (or white would look nice)
Greasproof paper
Palate knife
Paper and pen/pencil
A clear, flat surface in your fridge

Melt 50-100g of dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water (I did 100g which was far too much but I wanted to have several attempts in case they broke or I made a mistake with the piping (they did and I did).

Whilst the chocolate is melting, make yourself a little piping bag out of greaseproof paper. There is a nice tutorial on how to do this on the BBC Good Food website. I find it really handy to staple the top to keep it all nicely together.

Take a piece of paper and write out the word you are wanting to pipe just so that you have something to glance at, whilst piping. I found this helped as I feared I might mis-spell 'Gianduia' and also wanted to do a slightly fancier 'G' than I would normally do.

Spread a large piece of greaseproof paper on the worktop.

Spoon around three tablespoons of the melted chocolate into the piping bag.

Working quickly, pipe the word in one continuous motion so that all the letters are joined up together. Pipe some dots above any 'i' s!

Repeat a couple of times so that you have spares, refilling the piping bag as you go. 

Use any excess chocolate to pipe random patterns to use as decorations elsewhere!

Allow to dry/solidify for a few minutes before carefully transferring to the fridge. Leave to harden completely (a couple of hours).

When ready to place on the cake, have cake close by and, using the palette knife, carefully lift the chocolate lettering from the greaseproof paper. Immediately place on the cake, followed by the dots for above the 'i' s.

Do not touch the decoration with your hands - the chocolate will immediately melt. I discovered this to my peril (hence the slightly wonky end to my lettering).

Do not be tempted to pipe directly onto the top of the cake. Not only will it be hard to correct a mistake, but the heat from the melted chocolate could cause the ganache to split/go oily.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Autumnal Beef Casserole

It was hard to pick the 'first' recipe for the new blog. I felt it should be something super exciting and fancy.

So I chose a stew.

Or rather, a casserole. There is a difference, you know.

The point of this blog is to write about the food I cook for my (greedy) family. Not to pretend that an ordinary day sees me whipping up a quick batch of macarons in between taking my son to his swimming class and collecting the dog from the vet.

Yesterday was an ordinary day and I made this casserole. And so here it is!

I am a huge fan of batch cooking. I am always happy when I know my freezer if full of homemade 'ready meals'. There is nothing better at the end of an exhausting day when you don't feel like spending hours in the kitchen than knowing you can still eat something utterly delicious. If it wasn't for my freezer stash, my little boy might well live on a diet of mini Babybels and rice cakes. A couple of times a week, I made a big batch of something-or-other and freeze in small toddler-sized pots ready to whip out for his meals. This was one such dish although it is delicious for all the family and I rather wished I had made enough for us too (I usually make casseroles big enough for us all but I only had a relatively small amount of meat on this occasion).

You could use any combination of vegetables for this seasonal dish. I just used what I had to hand but any roots or squashes would work well. Using parsnips and/or vegetables such as butternut squash make this an appealing dish for babies and toddlers due to the natural sweetness. This could be pureed for small babies (over 6 months) or chopped for those a little older. My son is 14 months and managed well with a little chopping.

*A note on stock:
Babies under one year of age should eat very little salt indeed. Stock cubes are generally high in salt. I choose to use very low-salt stock cubes (Kallo) and sometimes just use half a cube when cooking for my son. If you prefer to avoid salt altogether, you can simply substitute stock with water when cooking for babies. Be sure to flavour with plenty of herbs instead!

Autumnal Beef Casserole
Serves 2 adults and 1 child or 4 toddler portions

1tbsp olive oil
350g braising steak, cubed
1 onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot
1 medium parsnip
100g swede
100g squash (e.g. butternut)
1 tbsp plain flour
500ml low-salt beef stock, or water*
Bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme

1. Pre-heat oven to 170C. 

2. Finely chop the onion and chop all the other vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a medium casserole and brown the meat in batches. Set aside whilst you start the vegetables.

3. Add a touch more oil if necessary. Sweat for five minutes until translucent but not golden. Add the other vegetables and cook gently for a further five minutes, adding the garlic right at the end and cooking for just a minute or so.

4. Return the meat to the pan and sprinkle over the flour. If cooking for adults only, season well with salt and pepper (omit salt for babies under 1 year and go easy for toddlers too). Give a good stir to combine and then pour over the stock or water. Add a bay leaf and the thyme and then cook in the oven for two hours or so until meltingly tender. Check after an hour and a half and add a little more water if it looks as though it is drying out!

5. Enjoy as it is or chop for toddlers/puree for babies over 6 months.

Friday, 18 October 2013

New beginnings

A taste of things to come - Torta alla Gianduia

Once upon a time, in an era before marriage, relocation to the countryside, nappies and the general chaos that comes with family life, I wrote a food blog. 

It wasn't fancy. I wasn't particularly adept at photography and I was fairly clueless about all technical aspects of blogging. But I loved food and, more to the point, I loved writing about food. Never happier than when pottering about in the kitchen or browsing through my epic library of cookery books, Food, Glorious Food was my very own little outlet for my gluttonous passions.

After several years of sharing my food virtually with all who cared to see or read about it (mainly my Mum, a few indulgent friends and the odd colleague), I ran out of steam. Or, rather, I ran out of time. I got married, moved to another part of the country and started a family. Life became a whirl of sudocreme, mother and baby groups and baking for the village fair. I stopped writing.

But (funnily enough) I didn't stop cooking. Or eating.

In fact, I have been doing more cooking than ever before now that I have more mouths to feed. 

I love cooking for my family and suddenly, I find myself wanting to write about it again. My son's enthusiasm for food is a joy and creating new dishes for him to try is inspiring. This will be a blog with a somewhat different slant to before - full of family-friendly food with ideas for all ages. 

I am excited about reconnecting with favourite food blogs as well as discovering new favourites. I am excited about sharing the food that I love.

My husband is not excited about the prospect of food once again being cold by the time I have photographed it.

I hope you enjoy your visit here at A Little Bit Greedy.